You can’t write a novel in a month in a vacuum

National Novel Writing Month is almost half over and so is my novel. The beginning of week three marks more than 25,000 words that I’ve written since the beginning of the month.

My great (or pretty obvious) discovery this week was that reading is an absolute must when attempting to write any sort of long prose. I took a couple days off from NaNoWriMo and immersed myself in two books: Haruki Murakami’s “Sputnik Sweetheart” and Mindy Kaling’s new book “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).”

Have you ever experienced the phenomenon where if you stare at a word for too long, you start to wonder what it actually even means? That’s how I felt with all the time I spent with the document open on my computer, trying to think of the next scene to write. Instead of driving myself crazy, I looked to other pieces of literature to remember how to write again. That may seem silly, but that’s how we learn to write as children in the first place.

Although both books are quite different, I allowed myself to leisurely enjoy them and take my mind off of my own work. Come Sunday morning, I felt re-energized and when I began writing after two days off, the words seemed to flow off my fingers and onto the keyboard. Studying the ways that others tell stories and form sentences can strengthen one’s own writing.

With the help of Manhattan-based literary agent Josh Getzler, who so generously offered to read my work as I travel through November, I was able to create a better balance between description and action in the next 15,000 words of my novel. His advice has been helping the story gather direction and meaning.

Follow Sam’s progress on Twitter @samwritesanovel


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